AuthorPhoto

Interview with Ann Whitely-Gillen

AuthorPhotoI not only had the pleasure of reading Mrs. Whitely-Gillen’s novel, Last Train to Omaha, but I also got the chance to ask her some burning questions that I had floating around.  Hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did!

  1. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

I absolutely love Martin and Frank and they will be making cameo appearances in my next novel Egan’s Will. As far as a theme goes, I’m addicted to people’s personal journeys – like James’s for example.

  1. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

At the advice of many, I self published and my goal after I establish a good readership is to have a publishing house pick me up. Having never written a novel before it took a lot of research and trying to find the right connections took a lot of weeding through names and businesses. I was extremely lucky to have found my editor Elizabeth Bond from the Canadian Editors’ Association who also worked for Simon and Schuster and has many connections in the publishing field. I found the entire process extremely challenging but worth it. I’ve learned a lot from the process.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

The one thing I can say is to write what you feel and what you know. Use your experience to ignite your imagination. My favourite authors are those who are not afraid to express themselves and their vulnerabilities through their characters. Anais Nin said “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” I believe this to be true.

How does your writing process look? Consistent with regular amounts of word counts daily/weekly… or more sporadic with a gush of words all at once and then a dry bed for a while?

I do my best writing in consistent chunks – hours upon hours, because I feel that’s when I feel I’m totally “in the groove” of it and my best work starts to flow. Having a very busy life doesn’t always accommodate this but when I do get to sit down to write, I’m normally gone for most of the day.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

There are some things on a personal level I would change yes, like getting more into the background of Stephen’s psyche. Also, I wouldn’t rush to have my book launched so quickly. We had some last minute editing issues that lapsed into our first round of publishing the book. Totally my fault of course…

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

I too suffered from a few traumatic experiences that altered the course of my life much as James. Also, James’s anxiety was very real for me as I do suffer from mild anxiety and my best friend growing up was actually hospitalized for extreme agoraphobia and so his attacks were representative of my surroundings and myself growing up. I also believe that there is a part of me and everyone I know in every one of my characters. My life has been my inspiration for the creation of these characters.

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to walk away with? If so, what is it?

Love your life, right now in the moment and be true to yourself. Embrace your relationships and learn from them. Never stop trying to explore your path.

What books did you read when you were kids? Any books you found inspiring?

Dr. Seuss (lol!).  I actually wasn’t an avid reader until my late teens. I did love to write my own stories as a child however. I come from a very artistic family. My dad is a painter and philosopher and my mother was into poets, including Dostoevsky and French Canadian singer Jacques Brel, so we were constantly exposed to art. For me, my biggest inspiration from my childhood comes from listening to Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles.

What does your Main Character think about you? Would he want to hang out with you, the author, his creator?

I’m not sure about that. Excellent question. I don’t think I’m logical enough for James but I do think he would at least like me.

What project are you working on now?

I just got back from New York City where I attended a workshop with Syd Field on screenwriting, so my husband and I are teaming up to write the screenplay for Last Train to Omaha. So many of my readers have indicated that they would love to see this story on the big screen so we’re going to attempt to create something tangible and film worthy. I’ve also started my second novel, Egan’s Will. I’m really excited about this book as it will be more of an epic novel and this time, the protagonist is a girl.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

I loved writing about Martin’s time in Vietnam. Having grown up in that era, it fascinates me. I remember everyone coming together to protest – creating a revolution to end war. I’m a huge World War II Vietnam War buff. I have so much love and respect for Veterans and what they have sacrificed for us all – the pain and suffering they must have endured is completely unfathomable to me.  I also really enjoyed James’s journey thorough South East Asia with Ted – it brought lightness to the storyline I felt. 

What is your interesting writing quirk?

Sometimes I talk or laugh out loud to myself when I’m writing dialogue. It makes me feel like I’m a part of the conversation somehow. Quirky – I know!

Which of your characters would you like to meet in person and why?

All of the Veterans – each and every one of them. I love them all. I feel connected to them and I think it’s because of my deep love and appreciation for what Veterans do and what they stand for. But mostly, I want to meet Martin. His soul is so rich and worldly.

Use 3 words to describe each of the following characters:

  • James- intelligent, vulnerable, broken
  • Rebecca- light, loving, forgiving
  • Kitty- fierce, loyal, fun
  • Ted- soothing, relaxed, brotherly
  • Frank- sexy, charming, loving
  • Martin- philosopher, witty, giving
  • Stephen- narcissistic, funny, deep

LOVER’S SMOOCHES:

You’ve been given the task to host a last minute dinner party. Which authors are on your ultimate dinner invitation list? Alive or Dead.
D.H. Lawrence, Jeannette Walls, and Charlaine Harris (to lighten up the mood because she is so much fun!) 
Craziest thing in your fridge right now?
Some kind of weird dipping sauce – I don’t even want to know what the ingredients are!
Favorite childhood toy you wished you still had?
My stuffed donkey
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Toss up between Jamoca Almond Fudge and Pralines and Cream
Shopping weakness?
Designer boots
Superpower you wish you had?
To fight evil

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To Connect with Mrs. Whitely-Gillen, you can visit her at her website:  http://www.anngillenbooks.com/

Book cover

Review: Last Train to Omaha by Ann Whitely-Gillen

Book coverTitle: Last Train to Omaha
Author: Ann Whitely-Gillen
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Book description:

“…in order for a man to be free, 
he must bind himself to his own destiny…”

What happens when a bright young man’s promising future is
tragically derailed at the age of eighteen?

Thirty-five-year-old James Milligan, the solitary and impenetrable chief architect at one of Chicago’s leading design firms, has never recovered from the gruesome death of his best friend nearly two decades before. He’s learned that a distant heart is the only way to shut out the nagging guilt and pain that threatens to capsize him at any moment. Only the dying veterans at the Aaron Milligan Palliative Care Center know the depth of the overwhelming compassion that James harbors within himself, and he is determined never to let anyone else into his heart — or his future — again.

However, when caring and patient palliative care nurse Rebecca Doyle enters his world, his hardened exterior begins to crack against his will. Will Martin Diggs, the charismatic and perplexing Vietnam War veteran convince James that it’s not too late to reclaim his future?

Continue reading

Author Spotlight: Letter from Ann Whitely-Gillen

Book cover          Last Train to Omaha came about under very extraordinary circumstances. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer last year changed my life–and in many ways, for the better. Taking a step back during my recovery allowed me to see things more clearly and redefine myself to become more of the person I was meant to be. Although I was a happily married mother of four, after my diagnosis, I felt I was still missing something deep and meaningful in my life.  Something about me was lost as I trudged through my hectic daily routine and never-ending demands of life. I lost me.

family at launch

I strongly believe my road to recovery began as I rediscovered myself through the characters in this book. I was able to seek solace in their ability to overcome diversity with courage in their hearts and the peaceful resignation they achieved with the connections they shared amongst themselves. Each character in this book represents a connection I’ve made in my life.

Through the eyes of James Milligan and his ensemble cast of supporting characters, we see that destiny is not only what life brings us–it’s about how life can be uniquely tailored simply by how we choose to respond to it.

All the best,

Ann

BIO:

AuthorPhotoAnn Whitely-Gillen resides in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, where she is a communications advisor and freelance writer. In the 1990s, Ann lived in Sydney, Australia for more than a year volunteering her writing and public relations expertise to organizations including Greenpeace. She is also an accomplished musician and singer.

Ann has always wanted to write a screenplay and, in fact, Last Train to Omaha started out with that in mind. After forty pages of writing, Ann decided to turn the screenplay into a novel, as she wanted to delve deeper into James Milligan’s personal journey and enrich the cast of characters.

After recently travelling to New York City to attend a workshop on screenwriting with Syd Field (guru of screenwriting), she is now ready to embark on the visual transformation of Last Train to Omaha to the big screen. Her new novel, Egan’s Will, is also in the works, so stay tuned.

Ann lives with her husband and four children, who she loves to spend time with along with their family dog. In her leisure time, she can be found watching an independent film or reading a good book with a glass of red wine!

Ann and Syd

Ann and Syd

Recipe: Peach Crostada

Peach Crostada 1a The following recipe is from The Perfect Peach by The Masumoto Family.

* This recipe is of the Crostada but made in the traditional way, not the way written in the directions of the book.

 Items needed:

Baking sheet

Parchment paper

pastry brush

 Ingredients:
Dough: (prepare 1 day in advance)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

6 TBSP Whole Wheat flour

1 TBSP Sugar

1/2 cup + 1 TBSP Butter, unsalted cold and cubed

1 Lg egg

1 1/2 tsp milk

 

Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

3 TBSP all-purpose flour

1.2 tsp cinnamon

6-8 peaches, ripened, peeled and cut into wedges

about 1/4 cup of turbinado  sugar or coarse sanding sugar for edges

1 TBSP Heavy Cream

Directions: (for dough)

  1.  Place flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl or food processor and blend/pulse to mix.
  2. Scatter cubed butter into flour and mix by hand or pulse until resembling coarse sand.
  3. In small bowl, whisk egg and milk together.
  4. Add to flour mixture and mix or pulse until rough dough forms clumps. Do NOT overmix, will become paste and toughen dough. **If dough is extremely wet, can add up to 2 TBSP of all-purpose flour (I had this issue with the recipe and added flour)
  5. Pull together and form into disk about 1″-1 1/2″ thick. Do NOT knead.
  6. Wrap disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1.5-2 hrs or up to one day.

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place flour, sugar, and cinnamon in small bowl and mix together.
  3. Place sliced peaches in medium bowl and sprinkle with flour mixture. Making sure to coat and stir thoroughly without damaging peaches.
  4. Place dough on floured parchment paper, precut to fit baking sheet.
  5. Roll dough into circle about 11″ in diameter and about 1/8″ thickness.
  6. Slide dough disk and parchment paper onto baking sheet.
  7. Using sliced peaches, arrange in single later, going in a circle starting about 1″-1 1/2″ from edge of dough disk.  Continue pattern until you reach the center. **If there is a lot of juices left over, don’t add to peaches, will end up with boil over.
  8. Start at 12′oclock position and begin folding edge of dough over peaches, overlapping dough as you go in circle until completed.
  9. Using pastry brush, brush outer edges of dough with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar (turbinado or coarse variety)
  10. Place in center of oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  **If using baking sheet with no edges, place empty baking sheet on rack beneath to avoid spillage in your oven.
  11. Once cooled for about 20-30 minutes, cut into wedges and serve!

ENJOY!!

Review: The Perfect Peach by The Masumoto Family

the perfect peachTitle: The Perfect Peach
Author: Marcy Nikiko & David Mas Masumoto
Genre: Cooking
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Book description:

A cookbook showcasing the luscious flavor of peaches in 50 sweet and savory dishes, drawing on the life stories and experiences of America’s foremost peach farming family, the Masumotos of California’s central valley.

Enjoy the luscious versatility of summer’s finest fruit with fifty sweet and savory dishes.

The Masumoto family’s amazing heirloom peaches—which are available for a few weeks each year at the best produce markets and top restaurants in the country—are widely considered the best peaches in the world. Their debut cookbook gathers the family’s favorite recipes, from classics like Hearty Peach Cobbler, Peach Chutney, and Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos to inspired combinations such as Prosciutto-Wrapped Peaches, Caprese with Peaches, Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops and Grilled Peaches, and Stuffed French Toast. And the pristine flavor of a just-picked summer peach can be enjoyed year-round with the easy-to-follow instructions for drying, canning, freezing, or jamming the best of the harvest. Continue reading

Review: The Mistress Files by Tiffany Reisz

MistressFilesCoverTitle: The Mistress Files
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Genre: Erotica
Publisher:Mira Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis:

Welcome to the private files of Nora Sutherlin, The Mistress.

Kingsley Edge, owner of the 8th Circle BDSM club and Nora’s occasional lover, has ordered her to compose client profiles so the other Dominatrixes in his employ can learn from her expert erotic encounters. She’s the best Dominatrix at the club and her clients always leave satisfied, no matter how unusual their requests may be. And The Mistress’s first five cases are anything but vanilla….

Review:

          In this sexy little novella I got to reacquaint myself my favorite Sinner, Mistress Nora.  Oh God, how I’ve missed her!  It was like a day hadn’t gone by since I stepped into her dungeon; even though it’s been a long and lonely road since November.  She’s just as smart and sassy as ever and I couldn’t wait to see what fun she had in store for me. Continue reading

Review: A Taste of You by Sorcha Grace

taste of youTitle: A Taste of You
Author: Sorcha Grace
Genre:  Foodie Erotica
Publisher:
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Synopsis:

Beautiful and talented Catherine Kelly is starting over as a food photographer in Chicago. With her painful past buried over 2000 miles away, she’s focused on her career and is hungry for little else. Until she meets a wealthy bachelor with arresting blue-grey eyes filled with enough tragedy to match her own. William Lambourne is a gourmand who takes great pleasure in food and in women. He’s rich, powerful, and gorgeous — and as talented in the kitchen as he is in the bedroom. From the moment they meet, William is determined to discover the perfect recipe to unlock Cat’s resolve, awaken her senses, and make her his own. He urges Catherine to step out from behind her camera and fully taste all that life has to offer, stirring an appetite in her she never knew she possessed – and it’s one only he can satisfy. As Catherine begins to fall for the stormy-eyed billionaire, she knows she must reveal her own dark secrets. But first, William must win Cat’s heart to ensure their pasts don’t undo them.

Book 1 in The Epicurean series, A Taste of You will leave you ravenous for more of Cat and William’s story!

 **This book is intended for ages 18 and up** Continue reading

Review: The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel by Katja Millay

The-Sea-of-Tranquility-by-Katja-Millay coverTitle: The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel
Author: Katja Millay
Genre: Young Adult/ Literature Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book description:

I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

Review:

                I’m not one to follow hype or trends, and I’m just going to be completely honest here…it really takes a lot to persuade me to read a book. I’m sort of one of those weirdos who likes a book to reach out and find me in a unique way; and that typically means more than just hearing the title thrown around a few times at the coffee shop.   It doesn’t have to be a new release either; if it grabs me, I grab back.

Continue reading

Review: Then, Again by Karen Stivali

Then, AgainTitle: Then, Again
Author: Karen Stivali
Genre: Romance/ Foodie Romance
Grade/Rating: 4 out 5

Synopsis:

Sometimes you have to lose it all to find what you really need.

Photographer Kay Turner is dealt a double whammy when she flies home for her grandmother’s funeral to find her boyfriend with another woman. Now with two losses to mourn, she retreats to her newly inherited beach house to clear her head.

Everything at the beach is familiar: the sounds of the ocean, the scent of her grandmother’s perfume—and the irresistible smile of James Margolis. The man Kay spent her adolescence pining for is every bit as charming as she remembers.

James always thought of Kay as “a nice kid”, but he feels something very different for the woman she’s become. Especially when he asks if she’d be willing to part with some of her grandmother’s recipes for his new restaurant—and they wind up sharing much more than culinary secrets.

But as their relationship deepens, Kay finds herself caught between the demands of her dream career as a travel photographer, and a chance for happiness with the one man she’s wanted for a lifetime.

Warning: This foodie romance contains sensual scone baking, a heroine who discovers one bad apple hasn’t spoiled her appetite, and a delicious hero you can’t help but crave. Blend well, serve hot.

My Review:

                Then, Again is a story of love and strength but also finding and then holding on to what matters most in life. 
Continue reading